I hope you’ve been keeping well, and survived the blast of heat!
As I’m sure you’ll have noticed, things are rather turbulent politically.
Along with other campaigners for gambling reform, we were hoping the government would publish the Gambling Act review whitepaper before the summer recess, which began last week.
However, we’d had clear indications that publication would be delayed until a new prime minister was appointed – and that is what has happened. We were deeply disappointed in this outcome. The consultation process was launched in December 2020 and involved a full and thorough examination of evidence from stakeholders across the gambling landscape.
Chris Philp, the minister in charge of the review, had taken the process seriously and was clearly being driven by the evidence. He came under serious attack by the industry and their lobbyists, but he remained solidly evidence-based and was not able to be “bought off” (which has been a central tactic of the industry). He referenced his meetings with bereaved families in his resignation letter and urged Boris Johnson to “deliver the review in full and undiluted”.
Chris Philp MP resigned from his post in government on July 7.
The reason given for the delay was not true: a whitepaper would not have “tied the hands of the incoming PM” but it would have allowed everyone to see what the government was thinking across the key issues of affordability, advertising, products and a statutory levy. Although we know that we would not have got everything that we were hoping for, we had had indications of strong action in many areas. Sadly, we were not surprised by the reports that unelected Number 10 advisors with long-standing links to the gambling industry had first sought to water down various measures and then to delay the publication of the whitepaper.
The gambling industry lobbyists are massively resourced. I’m sure that they will have been pleased that they had staved off regulation for another few months – each month translates into over a billion pounds of profit. But I find it difficult to believe that they can look themselves in the mirror, because the reality is that the delay will cost more lives – at least one every day. But, such is this industry, I’m not sure that they care.
We know that there are further gambling horror stories and revelations of more of the appalling practices of the industry to come over summer, so we can hope that when the whitepaper is finally revived it may actually be tougher than the version which the industry has delayed.
Away from the turmoil in Number 10, earlier this month The Big Step held an event that saw more than 70 people, including bereaved families, campaigners, and MPs, walk from Manchester to Liverpool via the cities’ four famous football clubs. The walk was John Myers’ idea and was held in memory of his son Ryan, who died in 2014, and all other lives lost to gambling.
Walkers hold a minute's silence at Goodison Park, home of Everton FC.
The walkers called at Manchester City, Manchester United, Liverpool and Everton and wore t-shirts with 409 on the back, the estimated number of people who die by gambling suicide each year in England. A moment’s silence was held at each ground in their memory. You can read more about the walk in media coverage from ITV, BBC, The Mirror, Manchester Evening News and The Liverpool Echo.
John Myers with Kay Wadsworth, who lost her daughter Kimberly to gambling suicide in 2018.
Also in July, a very special football match took place in Northern Ireland in memory of Lewis Keogh. Lewis, who grew up in Northern Ireland, died in 2013 after being addicted to gambling. Since his death, Lewis’s old football team – AFC Headingley – have held an annual Lewis Keogh Celebration Day, where the whole club celebrate his life, with Lewis’s old teammates playing a mini-tournament with the current Headingley teams. Lewis’s parents, Pete and Sadie, are always guests of honour and the day is always a powerful emotional experience for everyone involved.
This year the Headingley players travelled to Northern Ireland, where they played a special match in Lisnarick, the village where Lewis grew up. The first half saw Headingley play against NFC Kesh, the local team that Lewis played for as a youngster, while in the second half Headingley played Lisnarick FC.
Headingley was comprehensively beaten in both halves, with their goalkeeper keeping the scores (just about) respectable and being awarded the man of the match for his endeavours. Despite this, the day was a great success and a fitting tribute to Lewis. You can read more here.
Lewis Keogh Celebration Day.
We were delighted that our education film won three awards at the EvCom Clarion Awards earlier this month. The film, which was produced by Pukka Films, was awarded gold in the social welfare category, and silver in both the health and wellbeing and education and training categories. It is interesting that the judges praised the format of the combination of fiction and documentary which reflected the British Film Institute’s view at the film launch event last year. Clearly film buffs look out for excellence in form – we want the content to be right! Thank you to Pukka Films for giving us such a powerful film that does both.
I’m pleased to announce that after two Covid-affected years, the third William Ramsay Cup (WRC) will be taking place in Sheffield on Sunday 21 August. "William" and "Ramsay" are Jack’s middle names and the WRC was organised by his friends to remember and celebrate Jack and his love of football.
It involves 12 five-a-side teams taking part in a round-robin knockout competition which is designed to ensure that one team mysteriously emerges as the winner … but is mainly a wonderful tournament played in great spirit with everyone going for a drink afterwards! We would be delighted to see anyone who is within reach of Sheffield – just drop by and say hello … or stay for the whole event. If you’d like to know more, please contact me directly or for more information see https://www.facebook.com/williamramsaycup/.
Finally, many of you may have seen the documentary Gambling: A Game of Life and Death on BBC Three and available on BBC iPlayer. It was very hard to make but we felt that Jack’s friends spoke so strongly about him and his place in their lives. We hope that it manages to speak to a wider audience of young people, letting them know the dangers of highly addictive gambling products and the real risk to life. Thank you for your kind comments.
Thanks for reading and, as ever, thank you for your support.
Co-Chair of Trustees, Gambling with Lives